Lovers In the World of Fire

featured in the poetry forum January 11, 2023  :: 0 comments

This world is a passionate place,
sky white-hot, clouds in flame,
ground the same color as sky.

Mountains keep lovers, the king
and queen, close. When they do hike,
they do not see desert flowers, small

cacti, sharp rocks, even the view
of the suburbs below.
They’d rather stay inside.

She’d rather trace his tattoos
on his back, the sleeve
on his brown arm.

They do not see the mountains.
They smash vases, shred designer clothing,
yearn to stay together.

Even if it means staying until
they turn to ash
like sky and ground

and the people who scramble
from tower to car to work
to stores below each day

and the people who die
without cool water, cool air
on sidewalks each night.

editors note:

To end in ash, that’s some fire. – mh clay

The Rapture: Scene From the Life I Did Not Live

featured in the poetry forum August 22, 2022  :: 0 comments

On the day after the aliens pull
the gun nuts, vote-suppressers, and judges
off our planet in a kind of rapture,
my friends and I tie red prayer flags to
thin trees beside my house. The sky is blank.
Spaceships no longer hover by mountains
no one climbs. Chimes sing in the wind. No trucks
drive past, slowing down to stare at us, old
women in long skirts like theirs, with uncut
hair like theirs. Our men watch Star Trek inside.
We can breathe now. I wonder what happened
to people we knew from work, from the coasts,
to those who thought they were going to God.

editors note:

God knows where no god goes. – mh clay

Tippecanoe Mall

featured in the poetry forum January 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

To my new friends, it was still the ‘80s.
They spent each long Saturday afternoon
wandering the mall, always looking,
never buying. Only I would return
with a bagful of cardigans and pencil skirts,
with flats and a girdle I never wore.

I wonder what my friends would make
of the dead malls of America now, stripped
of the brand names they wore on t-shirts
and baseball caps. Now Trees of Heaven
crack fountains, replace plastic palms.
Mold spills over fountains and white brick.

But Tippecanoe Mall remains,
or so late-night Google tells me.
I imagine entering the time capsule
where I recognize no one, only the stores.
I pass by men’s shoes; search for
Lazarus or Lane Bryant, both vanished;
stop at the store of smocked blouses and
long, pastel skirts, clothes we snickered at.

I imagine leaving empty-handed despite the lure
of those linen blouses and skirts. Outside,
in worse heat and humidity than lingers in memory,
I wait for the bus back to the city I knew:
brick sidewalks, the Wabash River, sites of the stores
women my mother’s age would remember,

the house I lived in, shaded streets I walked on.

editors note:

Then comes the day when what we remember is remembered no more. – mh clay

Expecting a Miracle for the New Year

featured in the poetry forum December 26, 2021  :: 0 comments

I stand watch over the still stream
where a turtle used to amble.
All I see are fish, the size of
bare eyelashes, flickering past
rock and crushed cans.

In summer I called this place dead
even though the turtle lived here
beside rocks green with plush algae.
Fish swam past. Leaves dangled over
rushing water.

In fall, one hour before dusk,
I peer into dull, dark water
for a sign, for a rock to move.
Murky yellow leaves hold their breath
as fish swim past.

I used to call this the dead creek
when the light revealed everything
and the turtle hid from its glare.
Now I see only reflections:
clouds and trees.

Tomorrow a smooth rock becomes
a turtle basking in weak sun.
Stay safe, stay safe, I will whisper
to this creature far smaller than
a young child’s fist.

editors note:

Hopes and expectations fill our movements from one rock to another, each year to the next. – mh clay

The Chinese Restaurant in Moosonee, Ontario

November 11, 2021  :: 0 comments

Along the wide, empty street out of town, away from the railroad station, the red storefront gleams. It’s a welcome sight among the plate glass and faded displays of canned beans, motor oil, tools, or decades old sewing patterns, depending on the store. It is also a welcome sight beneath the infinite sky, beside the bay that is just the …

1st Ave., Silver Spring 2004

featured in the poetry forum September 11, 2021  :: 0 comments

That year cicadas found us in Silver Spring,
the concrete island where we stood marooned,
the closest we ever came to the swimming city.

I don’t remember the thrumming
amid horns honking and bulky men
hawking strawberries from their red truck.

I remember bugs flying past the few trees,
all with sharp leaves, through June’s
thick air, past the abortion clinic’s

barred windows and the sidewalk
where every Saturday girls from Holy Cross
shuffled past and mumbled entire rosaries.

Lying on the white wall-to-wall carpet,
listening to a young Annie Ross shriek
as if wings had grazed her bare shoulders,

we joked about eating cicadas.
We ate anything then: steak burritos,
lamb rogan josh, squid nigiri,

but cicadas on brown rice would save us.
We’d buy them at the corner store
from the man who gave me advice.

Curled up in one cell of the concrete island,
we imagined ourselves becoming them
having waited seventeen years to emerge

in this place and no other.

editors note:

A hot case of “you are what you eat.” – mh clay

Meditation on Toilet Paper

featured in the poetry forum June 17, 2021  :: 0 comments

I remember colored toilet paper,
pale pink sheets fluttering
into the toilet bowl, genteelly
staining the Nashua River red.

In some homes, they matched
the toilet bowl, sink, tub, tiles,
even towels and shower curtains.

But no woman
in my family was the slender
woman in the pink nightgown,
perfumed curls as soft as Charmin.

None of us lived in the ranch houses
curled around cul-de-sacs
on the other end of town.

We lived in older homes
where not much matched,
especially toilet paper.

One day, more recently than I’d realized,
colored toilet paper disappeared.
I don’t recall seeing pink paper,
even at Smitty’s or Marsh;

I don’t recall seeing
sheets that tainted groundwater
and matched nothing in my life.

editors note:

If we ever find pink fossils, maybe then we’ll recall. Until then, white’s all right! – mh clay

The Album Called Transmute

featured in the poetry forum March 25, 2021  :: 0 comments

Once again, I stand in my mother’s
mint-green raincoat from
RH White’s, too-thick hair
spilling far past my shoulders,
a stain on this prim coat.

In this musty record store,
dark even at noon,
I flip through crates
of $1 albums,
almost all faded.

Here I find a black album,
all outline, no color,
large dung beetle, holy symbol,
shuddering bass, tenor’s yelp.
Nothing I am looking for.

I hold the album between my hands.
Colors emerge: iridescent purple
and silver. Then green
overwhelms black
to shimmer like leaves.

I wonder what I will hear
when I play this album
on the blue Radio Shack
record player I still own
in dreams like this one.

Some nights I put
the album back,
fearing bad guitar,
worse lyrics. Once
someone had slipped
disco into the sleeve.

That night a siren sounded.
Men dressed like cops whooped.
Across the hall my brother
snickered, then chanted

Tonight I try again, hoping
for Richard Thompson, hoping
for Los Lobos, for A Tribe
Called Quest, not daring
to imagine women’s voices
on the album called Transmute.

editors note:

Vinyl verity in dream sleep reveals your music in mind. – mh clay

Maskless in Dallas

featured in the poetry forum November 28, 2020  :: 0 comments

Having overslept yet again, I wander
the aisles of a Barnes and Noble
that magically expands to an art gallery,
a toy store, a supermarket, all
without selling the book I want,
nature writing set in the hill country,
all that I will miss on the flight home.

Without that book, I walk out
to the shores of an artificial lake
large enough to be an ocean
with saltwater taffy and a Cyclone
at the end of the boardwalk.

I walk past the bare-chested men
and high-heeled women
who clog this path,
singing, smoking, swigging
beer from brown bottles.

I wake up gasping.

editors note:

Eyes open with loss not lost. Whew! – mh clay

The Magic Theater in Somerville

featured in the poetry forum September 6, 2020  :: 0 comments

The first time I saw
the man with the wispy
beard and the flapping silk
jacket, he was coming out
of Healthway Foods with a
chalky carob bar
in his pocket.

Of course,
I did not tell him
the truth. I feared he
would discern it, his eyes
and accent blazing.

The last time I saw
him, he was clean-shaven
and had cut off his pigtail.
I remember advice he gave,
having seen me walk
afternoons away from school.

I thanked him.
We moved on. He would
stay near this magic city.
I would not.

If I saw him now – no
longer the little sister, I
wouldn’t tell him the truth.

editors note:

Magical tradecraft, never revealed. – mh clay